Join the 22nd Dead Duck Day celebration, on June 5th

May 28th, 2017

Monday June 5th, 2017 is the 22nd edition of Dead Duck Day. At exactly 17:55 h we will honor the mallard duck that became known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species, and earned its discoverer (Kees Moeliker) the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize.

Dead Duck Day also commemorates the billions of other birds that die(d) from colliding with glass buildings, and challenges people to find solutions to this global problem.

The event will include a review of this year’s (animal) necrophilia news: the world’s second officially homosexual necrophiliac duck will make his first posthumous public appearance. [Some people have been waiting 22 years for this moment.]

For FULL DETAILS, see the Dead Duck Day official announcement.

Here’s an exciting action photo from last year’s Dead Duck Day celebration:

Profile of the first double-Ig Nobel Prize winner, Jacques Benveniste

May 28th, 2017

Jacques Benveniste [pictured here] was the first person (but not the last!) to be awarded more than one Ig Nobel Prize. John Welford the renowned “professional librarian, now semi-retired, who writes articles based on material gleaned from obscure books and journals,” crafted a profile of Benveniste. Here are some highlights:

“… Having – as he thought – produced convincing proof of the memory-retaining capacity of water, Jacques Benveniste thought he saw a way of cashing in on his work. He left Inserm (it is possible that he was pushed out rather than resigning his post voluntarily) and founded a company named the Digital Biology Laboratory, through which he hoped a make a vast fortune by completely revolutionizing the world of medicine.

“His new idea was that the memory retained by a quantity of water could be digitized and then transmitted to another body of water via a telephone line or the Internet. If one assumed that the first flask of water contained the cure to a particular ailment – which might well be assumed by a convinced homeopath – then the digitized memory of that cure could be sent anywhere in the world and transfer its miraculous powers to patients who would only need a glass of water and a computer (these days, a smartphone would probably have been sufficient). Presumably, a certain amount of money would also have flowed into the coffers of the Digital Biology Laboratory….

“Jacques Benveniste had the unique honor of winning two Ig Nobels, the first being in 1991. This was the first such award in the field of Chemistry. However, his persistence in continuing to astonish the scientific world earned him a second Ig Nobel, in 1998. He did not collect either award in person, but said that he was happy to be recognized in this way because it proved that the people making the awards did not understand the first thing about anything.

“Unfortunately, there was no possibility of Jacques Benveniste ever collecting a third Ig Nobel because he died in 2004 at the age of 69, with his revolutionary claims still unproven.”

The delicious effect of espresso foam [research study]

May 26th, 2017

Two scientists in Japan studied how the foam on a fresh cup of espresso makes that drink so thermodynamically delicious. My “Improbable Research” column on the RealClearLife web site gives details. It begins:

What’s not so hot about hot coffee —no matter how much you love it — is how quickly it cools.

Two Japanese scientists noticed that espresso has an advantage over plain coffee, in maintaining the right temperature. So they poured into some research to get to the bottom of the phenomenon. Their newly published study tells how and why espresso lets a drinker linger longer over a cuppa…

BONUS: The RealClearLife column is new. The first item I did for it is about whether time seems to stand still when you are in a Mercedes-Benz automobile that crashes.

Beer is a Rich Source of Flouride — Anti-Flouridation Forces Take Note!

May 26th, 2017

The international campaign against adding flouride to public water supplies has just had a monkey wrench thrown into their works. A new study reports that flouride is in the beer supply, in considerable amounts. The study is:

Beer as a Rich Source of Fluoride Delivered into the Body,” D. Styburski, I. Baranowska-Bosiacka, M. Goschorska, D. Chlubek, and I. Gutowska, Biological Trace Element Research, 2016, pp. 1-5. (Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Pomeranian Medical University, Poland, report:

“Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Due to its prevalence and volume of consumption, it should be considered as a potential source of F- and taken into account in designing a balanced diet. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze beer samples in terms of F- levels…. When compared to imported beers, Polish beers were characterized by the lowest mean F- concentration (0.089 ppm). The highest mean F- concentrations were recorded in beers from Thailand (0.260 ppm), Italy (0.238 ppm), Mexico (0.210 ppm), and China (0.203 ppm). Our study shows that beer is a significant source of fluoride for humans, which is mainly associated with the quality of the water used in beer production.”

This chart, from the study, shows “Fluoride mean concentration and SD in beers from different countries. (Statistical significant differences p ≤ 0.05)”:

The vast weight of scientific investigation finds that small extra amounts of flouride improves public health. But… anti-flouride campaigners worry that adding flouride to public water supplies —though intended to help improve the teeth and bones of the people who drink that water — might in some way instead poison everyone. That worry is deep-seated:

The disturbing there’s-flouride-in-our-beer newsdifficulty for the anti-flouridation forces comes not long after seemingly happy news: a study showing that chocolate and tea might be better than flouride at protecting teeth. That study is:

Theobromine: A Safe and Effective Alternative for Fluoride in Dentifrices,” Nakamoto Tetsuo, Alexander U. Falster, and  William B. Simmons, Jr., Journal of Caffeine Research. vol. 6, no. 1, February 2016, pp. 1-9. The authors, at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, Bethel, Maine, explain:

“During the process of studying caffeine’s effects on developing teeth, a serendipitous discovery was made. Teeth comprise hydroxylapatite (HAP). Ingestion of caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) caused the formation of smaller crystallites of HAP in the developing teeth. This resulted in the increased release of calcium and phosphorus ions from the enamel surface when exposed to acidic solutions in vitro. Furthermore, animal study confirmed the hypothesis that smaller HAP crystallites caused the increased incidence of dental caries. In contrast, theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine), which is similar to caffeine, caused formation of larger HAP crystallites in vitro. The ingestion of theobromine by lactating dams showed a decreased release of calcium and phosphorus ions from the enamel surface in the developing teeth of neonates in vivo. The use of fluoride dentifrices is controversial. It is also well documented that young children who brush their teeth often ingest fluoride-containing dentifrices. Based upon our comparative study between fluoride and theobromine, theobromine is a better alternative than fluoride. We believe that theobromine can be used as an ingredient of dentifrices and even if swallowed accidentally, there are no adverse effects.”

European Goo

May 26th, 2017

European goo gets a good going over, intellectually, in this marginal paper:

Black Goo: Forceful Encounters with Matter in Europe’s Muddy Margins,” Stuart McLean [pictured here], Cultural Anthropology, vol. 26, no. 4, 2011, pp. 589–619. The author, at the University of Minnesota, explains;

“This essay undertakes an evocative conjuration of alternative visions of materialism through consideration of intermediary states of matter. Specifically, it focuses on gelid, semi-liquid, semi-solid environments such as bogs, swamps and marshes lying on the fringes of human settlement and against which the claims of reason and historical progress have often been staked. The paper juxtaposes ethnographic and historical examples from Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia and Siberia with reflections on (amongst others) Bachofen, Bataille and Hegel. In doing so it seeks both to explore the limits of certain canonical formulations of historicity and historical knowledge and to ask what new cultural and political imaginaries and what possible futures might become thinkable through a more sustained engagement with the recalcitrant materiality of Europe’s muddy margins.”